A state of emergency has been declared in Ecuador after President Rafael Correa accused the opposition and security forces of a coup attempt.
Incensed officers shoved President Rafael Correa around and pelted him with tear gas and water when he tried to speak at a police barracks in the capital.
«I’m not taking one step back. Gentleman, if you want to kill the president, here he is, kill him if you have the guts,» President Correa said. The rebel officers responded with shouts, stones, and teargas canisters. Correa was taken to the hospital from the effects of the gas.
The head of the armed forces, Ernesto Gonzalez, said troops remained loyal to Correa. «We are in a state of law. We are loyal to the maximum authority, which is the president.»
Correa showed no sign of backing down. «They are a bunch of ungrateful bandits. No one has supported the police as much as this government,» he told reporters. «If you want to seize the barracks, if you want to leave citizens undefended, if you want to betray the mission of the police force, go ahead. But this government will do what has to be done. This president will not take a step back.»
The action was followed by hundreds of soldiers and police in Quito and Guayaquil, who blocked roads, lit tires and fired teargas. Scores of uniformed men overran the landing strip at Quito’s main airport, forcing flights to be canceled.
The country’s central bank chief, Diego Borja, meanwhile urged its citizens not to withdraw money from banks amid reports of looting. Many schools and businesses were also closed because of the unrest.
«This is not a popular mobilization, it is not a popular uprising, it is an uprising by the police, who are ill-informed,» Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told TV network Telesur.
The protests were triggered by a law passed by the National Assembly that would end the practice of giving medals and bonuses with each promotion. It would also extend from five to seven years the usual period required for promotions.
Correa blamed the Patriotic Society Party (PSP), led by Lucio Gutierrez, for fomenting the unrest, and said «all bad elements» in the police force would «be removed».
Several leaders in the region expressed their support for Correa, as did the Organisation of American States (OAS). Its Secretary-General Miguel Insulza called the situation «a coup d’etat in the making».
Source: The Guardian, BBC.